Grassroots news round-up

Reigning National Conference League champions Thatto Heath Crusaders will launch the defence of their trophy with a hugely attractive home Premier Division clash with title rivals Siddal.

The match is just one of several enticing opening day fixtures when the 2022 NCL season gets underway on Saturday 5 March, with four divisions again in operation following a Covid-19 enforced regionalised competition last time.

Wath Brow Hornets, who were Grand Final runners-up to Thatto in October, visit Lock Lane in another game set to draw a big crowd, while fans should be out in numbers to see promoted Leigh Miners Rangers and Thornhill Trojans (who have been elevated following the withdrawal of Underbank Rangers and the granting of permission for Featherstone Lions to drop down a tier) in action against, respectively, Pilkington Recs and West Hull.

There will be keen interest, too, in the matches between Egremont Rangers and Hunslet Club Parkside, and Rochdale Mayfield and York Acorn.

Many eyes will also be on the new kids on the NCL block. Doncaster outfit Bentley entertain Hensingham and Workington’s Seaton Rangers are at home to Eastmoor Dragons in what should be a closely contested bottom tier.

Kells, whose last match of 2021 was in the NCL Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium, Post Office Road, return to Featherstone but, instead of heading to Rovers’ ground, will take on the Lions at the Millpond in Division One. Saddleworth Rangers, who have been elevated from Division Two in the light of the restructuring caused by Underbank’s exit, travel to Myton Warriors. And Heworth, who have been similarly promoted – in the York outfit’s case, to Division Two – are at home to Dewsbury Moor Maroons.

The regular campaign is scheduled to end on Saturday 3 September. The title is to be determined by top-six play-offs, while the top two teams in each of the other three divisions will be automatically promoted, the next four sides in each section playing off to determine which other outfit will go up.

Those sides occupying the bottom two places in Division Three will be required to seek re-election in line with NCL regulations.

The fixtures in the opening round of each NCL division are:

PREMIER DIVISION: Egremont Rangers v Hunslet Club Parkside; Leigh Miners Rangers v Pilkington Recs; Lock Lane v Wath Brow Hornets; Rochdale Mayfield v York Acorn; Thatto Heath Crusaders v Siddal; Thornhill Trojans v West Hull.
DIVISION ONE: Featherstone Lions v Kells; Milford v Oulton Raiders; Myton Warriors v Saddleworth Rangers; Skirlaugh v Hull Dockers; West Bowling v Stanningley; Wigan St Patricks v Ince Rose Bridge.
DIVISION TWO: Crosfields v Barrow Island; Dewsbury Celtic v Bradford Dudley Hill; Heworth v Dewsbury Moor; Hunslet Warriors v Beverley; Normanton Knights v Wigan St Judes; Woolston Rovers v Clock Face Miners.
DIVISION THREE: Batley Boys v Millom; Bentley v Hensingham; East Leeds v Drighlington; Leigh East v Shaw Cross; Seaton Rangers v Eastmoor Dragons; Waterhead Warriors v Oldham St Annes.


Several of amateur Rugby League’s ‘big guns’ will face off when the 2022 Betfred Challenge Cup kicks off on the weekend of 15/16 January.

National Conference League champions Thatto Heath Crusaders, who reached the fifth round in 2019, travel to Lock Lane of Castleford, who have a strong pedigree in British Rugby League’s premier knockout competition.

Wigan St Patrick’s, who have recently appointed one of their most famous products, the former Great Britain legend Andy Gregory, as head coach, are aiming to secure promotion from Division One and will perhaps gain an indication as to their prospects in their tie at Rochdale Mayfield in another intriguing meeting of leading NCL sides.

Irish outfit Galway Tribesmen, meanwhile, will travel to Pilkington Recs, despite being drawn at home, in line with the terms of their inclusion.

Two or three games could be streamed live – the RFL expects to announce details early in the New Year.

The draws for the first two rounds of the Challenge Cup can be found here.


Chair Sue Taylor will be calling at the British Amateur Rugby League’s offices today (Monday 20 December) to ascertain whether any late postal entries have been lodged for inclusion in 2022 National Cup.

Nineteen had been received by the set deadline of last Friday, including one from Her Majesty’s Prison Services.

Orrell St James have entered two teams, while the 2019 winners and current holders Thatto Heath Crusaders are again taking part, together with runners-up West Hull.

The 19 already confirmed are: Ackworth Jaguars, Birkenshaw Blue Dogs, Blackbrook, Cockermouth, Drighlington, Fryston Warriors, Haresfinch, Hindley, HMP Rugby League, Maryport, Myton Warriors, Normanton Knights, Orrell St James, Orrell St James A, Sharlston Rovers, Thatto Heath Crusaders, Upton, Waterhead Warriors, West Hull.

The preliminary round is scheduled for Saturday 8 January; the final will take place on Sunday 10 April at a venue to be confirmed.


The final of the 2021/22 BARLA Yorkshire Cup, which had been set for Sunday 2 January at the Millennium Stadium, Post Office Road, Featherstone Rovers, will now be played seven days later, at the same venue.

BARLA’s original plans were put into disarray when last Saturday’s second semi-final, between Hunslet Club Parkside and Upton, was postponed through, League Express understands, a Covid outbreak in the visitors’ camp.

The sides have been instructed to try again on 2 January – the scheduled date of the final – and the survivors will meet Doncaster Toll Bar, who edged Ackworth Jaguars in the first semi-final, on Sunday 9 January.

The occasion will, subject to Covid restrictions, still act as a double-header alongside the Under 18s decider.


Wath Brow Hornets have been given a major boost with a £200,000 grant that will facilitate a new training complex.

The cash windfall, which has been four years in the procuring, is courtesy of the Rugby League World Cup fund, Cumbria County Council, Copeland Council, Hornets’ local council and the Postcode Lottery.

The Cumbrian outfit can now prepare for the 2022 season and beyond in a 25 x 17 metres ‘barn’, which will ensure that training can take place throughout the year, with minimum disruption for local residents.

Head coach Ian Rooney said: “The committee and the sub-committee which was formed to oversee this development have been fantastic and we are extremely grateful for the support we’ve had from all our funders.

“The project has been delivered by William King construction, who have simply been the best in taking it on and finishing it to the highest of standards.

“If you walk around Wath Brow you will see the most important people – the kids – and they are going to really benefit. But it will not just benefit Wath Brow Hornets, it will benefit the whole community.”


The train-on squads have been confirmed for the 2022 Student Origin game, which will be played at Loughborough on Sunday 6 February as the final stage of the England Universities selection process.

Both the North and South camps have named 30 players for the sixth game in the series; all will be aiming to make the 20-man ‘cut’ for the Loughborough clash, and subsequently stake a claim for a spot in the England side, under coaches Richard Tate and Kevin Deighton, which will embark on its 2022 programme in the spring.

The hopefuls have emerged from regional clashes in which Midlands beat South East 32-18, North East accounted for Yorkshire 36-18 and North West eased to a 66-0 success over South West in last month’s triple-header at Birmingham.

Tate, who will be a keen observer at Loughborough, said: “The pandemic has meant that players have missed out on the representative programme, and the rest of the staff and I have been itching to get back at it since we had to put the England programme on hold in early 2020.

“The players have told me that they missed not being able to play at University and being part of all the heritage that the England Universities programme has. It’s good to be back!”

The North squad is selected from players who turned out for the North East, Yorkshire and North West teams; the South involves players at universities in the Midlands, South East and South West.

Adam Houston and Jack Howieson are the North’s coaches, and Chris Chatten is the manager. The south, who are coached by Mark Sloan and Ben Whincup, are managed by Ryan Cousins.

The squads are:

NORTH: Adam Lavin (Lancaster/North West), AJ Towse (York St John/North East), Cameron Brown, Alex Eckley, Nathan Taylor, Kellen Wood (all Liverpool John Moores/North West), Brad Calland, Alex Fitzhenry, Joseph Heaton (all Edge Hill/North West), Ben Bradshaw, Ryan Johnson, Elliott Jones, Leon Stewart (all Hull/Yorkshire), Ben Gray (Sheffield Hallam/Yorkshire), Harry Trulson (Hull FC Sports College/Yorkshire), Isaac Coleman, Jack Earl (both York/North East), Jed Charlton, Sean Croston, Tyler Hepple, Jake Lightowler, Nathan Newbound, Jack Quinn (all Northumbria/North East), Joe Riley (Leeds/Yorkshire), Jordan Bull, William Cohen Nathan Simpson (all Leeds Beckett/Yorkshire), Matty Rudd (Manchester Met/North West), Max Flanagan (Newcastle/North East), Sam Eyres (UCLan/North West).

SOUTH: Alex Boag (Exeter/South West), Teddy Davidson, Ben Edwards, Tom Mitchell, Bradley Murphy, Ben Thewlis (all Loughborough/Midlands), Joe Hunter, Ben Littlewood, Brandon Whitaker (all Nottingham Trent/Midlands), Benjamin Foskett (Birmingham City/Midlands), Charlie McCurrie (Leicester/Midlands), Christian Gale (London South Bank/South East), David Bofenda (Open University/South East), Delaine Bedward-Gittens (Coventry/Midlands), Ed Brown (Bedford/South East), Julius Banks, Michael Holden, George Orriss, Owen Priest, Henry Symons (all Gloucestershire/South West), James Amachree, Jack Cherry (both Nottingham/Midlands), Luciano Bejanidze, William Budd, Louis Chapman, Josh Stuttle (all St Mary’s/South East), Noah Lancelott (Keele/Midlands), Sam Hughes (Oxford Brookes/South East), Thomas Ducker (Exeter/South West).


The Rugby Football League has, as the festive break approaches, spelt out the implications for the amateur game of the Government’s Plan B of Coronavirus restrictions.

Grassroots clubs were advised by the Community Game Delivery Team, on Friday, that there are no set restrictions on how many people can take part in sport and physical activity, indoors and outdoors, while all sports facilities can open, including ancillary facilities.

There are no indoor capacity limits but a spokesperson stressed: “However, venues may put in place some restrictions and guidance for enclosed areas,” adding, “spectator attendance at large events may be subject to providing evidence of full vaccination or having tested negative in the last 48 hours (unless exempt from these requirements). Those participating in mass participation events are exempt from the NHS Covid Pass requirements.”

The RFL reminded clubs that it is now compulsory to wear masks in indoor venues, highlighting: “However, face coverings are not required in the premises or the part of a premises where the main activity is exercising (for example, gym floor, exercise room, hall being used for fitness classes, etc) or where food and beverages are being consumed.”

In addition, grounds-keepers can now benefit from a ‘toolkit’ designed by the RFL to provide practical guidance for volunteers on maintaining and developing pitches.

Meanwhile, open invitations are in place for membership of any of next year’s Girls, North West Men’s, Women’s and Yorkshire Men’s Leagues. A deadline is in place for applications for inclusion in the men’s competitions of Monday 10 January, while the deadline for applications for the Women’s and Girls’ Leagues is Friday 14 January. Further information can be obtained by emailing


The Castleford & Featherstone ARL’s plans to relaunch its representative side, after a fourteen-year hiatus, are taking a step further forward.

Nominations are being sought for a team manager, coaching staff and a physio.
Applicants should email league secretary Linda Peel at

The Castleford & Featherstone team last played in 2007, in a successful Tri-Series which also included Leeds and Wakefield.

Several other leagues have expressed interest in providing opposition.

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